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A County Chairman Refused To Boost Security at Supreme Court Justices’ Homes. Then He Had Police Guard His Residence.

Protests outside the house of Justice Brett Kavanaugh (Getty Images)
• May 20, 2022 10:00 am

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The Virginia official who refused to boost security at the homes of Supreme Court justices during pro-abortion protests last week had no problem using taxpayer money to have police protect his home, according to emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Jeff McKay, a Democrat who has served as chairman of Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors since 2019, denied a request from Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin (R.) last Wednesday to block protests around the justices' homes, allowing abortion activists to flout federal and state laws that prohibit picketing at private residences. According to sources, however, patrol officers for a week after the protests were posted outside McKay's home after the supervisor allegedly received threats.

Pro-abortion protests erupted nationwide in May after a leaked draft opinion indicated the High Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade next month. Police stood by and permitted hundreds of abortion advocates last week to pack the streets outside the homes of Justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh in Montgomery County, Md., as well as Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett in Fairfax County.

"His intrusion into our rights deserves some intrusion into his peace and comfort," one protester outside Alito's home told a CBS affiliate. Another said, "If you take away our choices, we will riot."

Others have already turned to violence. In Wisconsin, pro-abortion extremists apparently firebombed a pro-life group's office, writing on its wall, "If abortions aren't safe, then you aren't either." A Department of Homeland Security memo leaked on Wednesday said the agency is preparing for a potential wave of violence following the Court's anticipated overturning of Roe.

The Board of Supervisors did not hold a vote to decide whether the justices deserved increased security from the Fairfax County Police Department. A McKay spokesman declined to comment on the supervisor's own police security detail other than to say the chairman "has full faith in the professionals of the FCPD to carry out their mission of ensuring public safety and protecting people's constitutional rights."

McKay in a reply letter to Youngkin last week said the governor's request for a secure "perimeter" at the justices' homes would violate residential homeowners' Fourth Amendment rights in addition to protesters' First Amendment rights.

"My focus is on public safety and protecting [the] constitutional rights of our citizens," McKay said.

In Washington Post op-ed on Monday, McKay added he was advised not to enforce the Virginia law that prohibits protesting at a private residence by Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney Steve Descano (D.) because it "would not hold up in court and is likely unconstitutional." While he encouraged protests in public spaces, he maintained the protesters' actions were legal and put no one at risk.

"In no way are the above legal judgments putting anyone's safety at risk," McKay wrote, saying the recent protests were "limited in both numbers and duration." He did not say whether the county will prevent potential protests at justices' homes after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health decision.

When asked by the Free Beacon whether the justices faced heightened threats as the Roe ruling nears, a Youngkin spokeswoman iterated the governor's May 11 letter requesting enhanced security "based on credible and specific information received about upcoming activities planned at or involving the homes of the justices in Fairfax County."

"The governor, along with state partners, stands ready to handle increased threats and violence," the spokeswoman added.

Youngkin and Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R.) last week urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to enforce a federal law that bans picketing to influence members of the judiciary. Youngkin believes the federal statute is more robust than a related Virginia law that prohibits picketing outside residences.

"The state statute is punishable with a fine, it's barely more punitive than a parking ticket," Youngkin said. "The federal statute is absolutely clear that parading and picketing in order to influence a justice is punishable with up to a year in prison. This is a time where local law enforcement, state law enforcement, and federal law enforcement need to collaborate and come together in order to make sure that we are upholding the law and keeping people safe."

Law enforcement sources who spoke with the Free Beacon expressed concern that the additional security detail for the chairman strained the department's diminishing resources. Chief of Police Kevin Davis in May said the county is seeing a spike in resignations, leaving its overall officer vacancy rate at 9 percent. The dwindling numbers often force remaining officers into prolonged shifts and unexpected roles. Because no one volunteered to monitor the chairman's home, for instance, officers were forced onto the detail, which carried on for a week after the protests.

Justices have not needed security details until recently. As of 2018, only justices who traveled outside the Washington, D.C., region were granted protection by the U.S. Marshals Service, and even then just upon request. The Justice Department on Wednesday announced "the U.S. Marshals Service accelerated the provision of around-the-clock security at the homes of all Justices," according to a press release.